[one_fourth_last]So I texted my sister the other day, asking her for feedback on an old family recipe I was dabbling with. I sent her a sample and wanted to know what she thought. She liked it very much. She also added that I could add more hot pepper to one of the samples, to clearly differentiate between the hot and the mild one.
My response was a simple “Thanks.” I was in a rush. I also wanted to make sure I responded.
- Sister’s response: “Well I didn’t mean it as a criticism.”
- My response: “I didn’t take it as criticism. I appreciate the feedback (smiley face, kissy face, red hearts). I’ll be sure to add more pepper to the next batch and send you some (wink face and thumbs up).”
How quickly our communication wires got tangled up over such a straightforward transaction.
How many times do you get wires crossed over simple things?
Imagine this scenario extended in any number of directions – co-workers, leaders, friends, spouse, children, neighbours – where a quick digital response given with one intention, ends up upsetting the other person.
This brings up two very important points about the art of communication:
- How a person hears and then interprets information is primarily based on past experience, the good and the bad. This goes for co-workers as well as siblings. In my case, a history of sibling rivalry, coupled with a curt text set off a bit of an avalanche, for which I take full responsibility.
- Besides, texts and emails miss a key ingredient to communication: your tone of voice. If I had called her instead, I have no doubt that my tone of voice would have conveyed genuine interest in her feedback on a recipe that we both love. And it would have taken all of 5 minutes.
So, when are texts or emails substitutes for actual conversation?
Dare I say, almost never? I’ve learned the hard way, with both family and colleagues, that with human contact, a person is privy to your voice, its tone, rhythm and inflections, potentially avoiding all sorts of wire crossings.
So consider emails and texts useful adjuncts rather than substitutes. They are definitely helpful with rapid follow-up to a conversation, emailing documents and forwarding information. And yes, an emoticon or two often brings a smile to my face.
But before pressing send, ask yourself: Does this conversation need a more personal approach? If the answer is yes, or you’re not sure, best to err on the side of caution and dial. You’ll be happy you did.
What stops you from pressing send and picking up the phone? I look forward to your comments.